Work is What We Do – Part 1

Work is what we do to feed, clothe and shelter ourselves and our loved ones.  Work is that effort required to achieve survival and safety.  Throughout human history and even today in some rural areas, work is as basic as finding water and food.  The various inventions around doing work, providing water, food and shelter, have enabled mankind to flourish on this planet and the ‘technology’ of work becomes more meaningful given this context.

This is why Industrie 4.0 is somewhat of a misnomer, even if one defines the context only from the first industrial revolution.  How we do work is a function of the power source that we use, combined with the technology available to control that power.  In early human civilizations, agrarian societies were human powered or made use of domesticate animals to help with the work of food production.  Horses or oxen were used to plow fields, turn mill stones, lift water from wells and even used to help with building large structures.  Civilization was built on the backs of men and beasts.

It is estimated that the windmills of Nashtifan, Iran date back to the 1500’s.  Amazing as it may seem, they have been using vertical axis wind power to grind wheat into flour for centuries.  And those old structures that survive today are still working.  (see video link)

The mechanical revolution in textile manufacturing was largely human powered machinery.  In the late 1500’s a wave of machine solutions were used to manufacture socks, hosiery and linens.

Steam power developed in the late 1700s

Electric power became widespread in the late 1800’s as a result of Edison’s commercialization of electric light.  What we think of as the Electric Utility industry is really a byproduct of the commercial success of Thomas Edison.  When Edison sold his generating companies to General Electric, many of the subsidiaries, like Southern California Edison, retained his name as part of the deal.

Control of electrically powered systems was generally based on the use of relays, electromechanical switches that were either on or off.

Emergence of the semiconductor as a scalable switch to make available complex logic without the use of relays.  Control systems were increasingly complex, costly and difficult to troubleshoot as a result of the electromechanical relay implementation.

convergence with information technology

 

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